Unwanted Affiliate Behavior To Watch Out For

An affiliate program manager who is working on her affiliate program agreement wrote:

I was looking through your site and the sample TOS you provide and came across paragraph 8.4.

Two quick questions:

  1. Should we not allow our affiliates to have popups/popunders (even surveys)?
  2. Should we allow our affiliates to use cloaking codes to redirect to our site?

My gut feeling is no — based on all the reading I have been doing — but I don’t really understand why not. I want to be able to make an intelligent decision and to be able to back it up.

This is a very good and important question. However, it seems that a number of very different things are bundled together in it: from pop-ups to surveys to link cloaking. Surveys and other forms of incentive affiliate marketing may or may not work for your affiliate program [more here]. Link cloaking may be used either with kosher motives, and/or to hide something rogue affiliates don’t want you to see/catch [e.g.: trademark violations in PPC campaigns]. Pop-ups are not evil just because they are pop-ups, and neither are toolbars evil by nature… What affiliate program managers should be concerned about are the opportunities for fraud that this or that marketing method, mechanism and tactic may open.

If you re-read the paragraph 8.4 that the above-quoted affiliate program manager refers to, you will notice 5 specific behaviors/actions to watch out for. That paragraph prohibits applications (you will want to broaden this to also include techniques, tools, methods, and anything else) which:

1. Through accidental or direct intent cause the overwriting of affiliate commission tracking cookies through any other means than a customer initiated click on a qualifying link on a webpage or email;

2. Intercept searches to redirect traffic through an installed software, thereby causing pop-ups, commission tracking cookies to be put in place or other commission tracking cookies to be overwritten where a user would under normal circumstances have arrived at the same destination through the results given by the search [video here];

3. Set commission tracking cookies through loading of merchant site in iFrames, hidden links and automatic pop-ups that open merchant.com’s site;

4. Target text on web sites, other than those web sites 100% owned by the application owner, for the purpose of contextual marketing;

5. Remove, replace or block the visibility of affiliate banners with any other banners, other than those that are on web sites 100% owned by the owner of the application.

These 5 things are the behaviors to disallow — and focus on diligent policing of affiliate compliance with these rules — both as actions, and motives behind them; not surveys, pop-ups, or link cloaking.

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